Today, Sunday, is my fifth day antidepressant-free, and so far withdrawal’s been relatively smooth. Sure, I’ve been tired and lightheaded and irritable and had a mild surge of intrusive thoughts, but these are all perfectly normal withdrawal symptoms. Besides, the last time I did this I had a much different experience:
Day one was fine. Day two was okay. Day three was bad; day four was hellish. Day four was when the withdrawal symptoms really kicked in. Strangely enough I hadn’t really anticipated the possibility of negative side effects, yet they were myriad and surprisingly aggressive. I figured insomnia would be one of them, since one of my antidepressants was a sleeping aid, and it was. But what I didn’t reckon for was the nausea, dizziness, obsessive thoughts, or general sense of dread (not to mention some of the weirder side effects, like the inability to eat dairy or an itchy scalp).
Almost none of that’s happened this time, the dizziness and the obsessive thoughts aside – and even then the obsessions, while sometimes persistent and usually unpleasant, are mostly white noise (I could never have said that the last time, when obsessions still had the capacity to paralyze me). I suppose I should qualify that by mentioning I was going off both an antidepressant and an off-label antipsychotic the last time – but still, so far the difference between the two experiences has been night and day.
Ultimately, withdrawal symptoms are nothing more than the miserable, short-term consequences of tapering. Unfortunately, given that they oftentimes mirror the initial disorder, they’re easily confused with a return to symptoms; this is one of the many reasons it’s crucial to taper under supervision. The term “antidepressant” is a misnomer, by the way, because they’re used to treat any number of different things. Having OCD doesn’t mean having depression, too, even though there’s significant comorbidity (or overlap) between the two disorders. In the case of OCD, antidepressants don’t eliminate obsessions or compulsions but rather lower a sufferer’s anxiety so that they’re better able to do Exposure and Response Prevention, or ERP, which is the lone evidence-based treatment for OCD. Once I’d mastered ERP I stopped needing antidepressants – hence the decision to stop taking them.
So we’re off to a good start, but we’re also well-positioned for long-term success. I redid the basic withdrawal math and determined that the Trintellix will be completely out of my body June 24 or 25. In the meantime, I’ve made a withdrawal to-do and to-don’t list. Check it out! (These symptoms could linger beyond the end of June.)
- Sleep 7-½ or 9 hours a night.
- Drink more water than usual. Keep starting every day with a glass of water – and then drink nine more, for a total of 2-½ litres a day.
- Continue to develop your brain healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Write about your recovery.
- Start making medium- and long-term goals. Goals help with recovery.
- Give your withdrawal symptoms (or your OCD, for that matter) more attention than necessary. The rest of these items flow from this overarching point.
- Read about withdrawal symptoms. You already know everything you need to know.
- Read your own blog entries about withdrawal.
- Rate yourself on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale. Every time you do you will donate $20 to the provincial Progressive Conservatives.
- Seek reassurance. Perspective is fine; reassurance is not.
- Become obsessive about withdrawal.
ONE MORE DO:
- CELEBRATE THIS MASSIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT.